The city of Palmdale, Calif., recently hosted a diversity summit where Las Vegas business owners brainstormed strategies to win contracts for building XpressWest, the proposed high-speed train to Southern California.
XpressWest initially was slated to run only between Las Vegas and Victorville, Calif., but agreements reached last year extended it 50 miles west to Palmdale. Palmdale is part of the California High-Speed Rail line and is a key connection point for carrying people between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Palmdale Mayor James Ledford recently sat down with VEGAS INC to talk about what XpressWest means both to his city and to Las Vegas:
What puts Palmdale on the map?
This is where the growth is coming. In the mid-'90s, we were the fourth-fastest growing region in America.
This is a perfect connection for the train systems because of the gradual elevation out of Los Angeles. It makes us a great portal for both the California High-Speed Rail System and XpressWest, and we’ll have a station for both of them.
The California High-Speed Rail system will connect with Northern California, right?
That’s correct, and that wasn’t by accident. We’ve been involved in high-speed rail ever since the very beginning, with the first California High-Speed Rail Commission. We were there and told them what our intention was, and we worked to make that happen.
What makes Palmdale particularly advantageous is the West Los Angeles ridership. I think every train that has ever been proposed wants that as part of their finance plan.
What was your reaction when you first heard about XpressWest’s plan to link Victorville with Palmdale?
I thought it was a natural. And, again, it’s that West L.A. market they’re coming after.
We were already working on our High Desert Corridor, the first east-west freeway in the Antelope Valley which would have a right-of-way capability for this train. So the timing is good and the coordination with our other regional transportation is going to make this a really natural fit for us.
Is there excitement in Palmdale about having a train that could take people to Las Vegas in 2½ hours?
You have no idea what that means. But it goes both ways. Those folks can come into the Los Angeles Basin area in the same time. The goal for us is a single-seat ride from downtown Los Angeles' Union Station to Las Vegas.
So we are promoting our alignment and station design to make it intermodal and very accessible. You combine that with our airport plans and other regional transportation focuses that we’ve developed in support of this project, and we’re well-positioned to be part of a new frontier for intermodal connectivity unlike anything else in the state or in America.
I’m sure our resort community is interested in how many people live in the Palmdale area.
Palmdale is about 155,000. But the general area is about half a million. We’re slated to move pretty quickly as growth continues.
In the L.A. basin, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for growth. Up here, there are. We’re a pro-growth region, and we want an airport and a high-speed train. We want the elements that will bring a greater quality of life to our residents.
Do you think there will come a time when Las Vegans will be able to take a high-speed train to San Francisco via Palmdale?
You’re right on the money there. San Francisco to Vegas is very attractive. Vegas to the L.A. basin, Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, the beaches.
It really does reinforce the elements in the greater Los Angeles area that are very attractive for visitors and tourism. The train is going to give us another opportunity to bring people and be hosts.